On April 27, 1822 a boy was born to Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant in the small town of Point Pleasant, Ohio. They named their son Hiram Ulysses Grant. In 1823 the family moved to a town nearby called Georgetown, Ohio, where Ulysses' father owned a tannery and some farmland. Grant had two brothers and three sisters born in Georgetown.
Ulysses attended school in Georgetown until he was 14. He then spent one year at the academy in Maysville, Kentucky, and in 1838, he entered an academy in nearby Ripely, Ohio. Early in 1839, his father learned that a neighbors son had been dismissed from the U.S. Military Academy. Jesse asked his congressman to appoint Ulysses as a replacement. The congressman made a mistake in Grant's name. He thought that Ulysses was his first name and his middle name that of his mother's maiden name. But Ulysses never corrected the mistake.
Grant was an average student at West Point. He spent most of his free time reading novels and little time studying. He ranked high in math and was very good at horsemanship. Ulysses did not like the military life and had no intention of making it his career. Instead he considered teaching mathematics in a college.
Grant graduated from West Point in 1843 and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He was assigned to the 4th Infantry Regiment stationed near St. Louis. It was there that he met Julia Dent. They fell in love and soon became engages. The threat of war with Mexico delayed their wedding plans.
In 1847, Grant took part in the capture of Mexico City and won a promotion for his skill and bravery. He reached the rank of 1st Lieutenant by the end of the war. Grant returned to St. Louis as soon as he could and on Aug. 22, 1848, he was married to Julia Dent. During their marriage, the Grant's had four children: Frederick, Ulysses S. Jr., Ellen, and Jesse Root Jr.
Civil War Era
Grant was almost 39 years old when the Civil War began in 1861. He had freed his only slave in 1859 and strongly opposed secession. After President Abraham Lincoln called for Army volunteers, Grant helped drill a company that was formed in Galena. Then he went to Springfield, the state capital, and worked for the Illinois assistant general. Grant asked the federal government for a commission as colonel, but his request was ignored. Two months later, Governor Richard Yates appointed him colonel of a regiment that became the 21st Illinois Volunteers. Grant led these troops on a campaign against Confederates in Missouri. During two months of campaigning, Grant refreshed his memory about handling troops and supplies. Upon the recommendation of Elihu B. Washburne, an Illinois congressman, President Lincoln appointed Grant a brigadier general in August 1861.
Grant established his headquarters at Cairo, Illinois, in September 1861. He soon learned that Confederate forces planned to seize Paducah, Kentucky. Grant ruined this plan by occupying the city. On Nov. 7, 1861, his troops drove the Confederates from Belmont, Missouri, but the enemy rallied and retook the position. In January 1862, Grant persuaded his commanding officer, General Henry W. Halleck, to allow him to attack Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River. As Grant's army approached Fort Henry, most of the Confederates withdrew. A Union gunboat fleet, sent ahead to aid Grant, captured the fort easily. On his own initiative, Grant then lay siege to nearby Fort Donelson. When the fort commander asked for terms of surrender, Grant replied: "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." The Confederate commander realized he had no choice but to accept what he called Grant's "ungenerous and unchivalrous" demand. Northerners joyfully declared that Grant's initials, U. S., stood for "Unconditional Surrender." Grant was promoted to major general. On April 6, 1862, the Confederates opened the Battle of Shiloh by launching a surprise attack on...